A friendship with France that has spanned 60 years
Historically, relations between France and Britain were not always warm.
So it is a testament to our times that a group set up in South Holland 60 years ago to restore the bond is still going strong today.
The Friends of Sezanne is this year celebrating its landmark birthday of the jumelage (twinning) with Sezanne in the champagne region of France.
Group secretary Roy Ford said: “I think for the twinnings in this day and age it is quite an achievement.
“For a lot of them, the council and government sponsorship has ceased.”
Spalding did have a twinning group with Speyer in Germany, which also celebrated a successful 60 year bond in 2016.
The French lifestyle is very different. Spalding is seen to be a rural area - but we have daffodils and they have champagne!”
However, the twinning group dissolved in the same year, but the friendship bond continues.
Roy added: Although our group members have changed over the years we continue to keep going with 30 families here and 35 families over in France.
“It is a very different experience for people going from here.
“It is a very rural champagne area. The French lifestyle is very different.
“Spalding is seen to be a rural area - but we have daffodils and they have champagne!”
And some of the families have been hosting each other for 40 years.
They take turns to visit each other. One year South Holland members go to France and the next year, including this year, their French friendsvisit South Holland.
Les Penney (87) and his wife Janet (82), from Holbeach, have been members of the twinning group for around 50 years.
“We got involved through word of mouth,” Les said.
“A group of local people originally got the group going and back then it was very much a private thing, before it become a little bit wider and then a proper twinning group.”
Les and Janet originally stayed with a family by the surname of Welsh.
Over the years they formed bonds with their children and grandchildren who came over to stay with the Penneys and even joined them working on their farm for three to four weeks.
Over the past 15-16 years they have been staying with Madame Desroches in the village of Mondemont, near the town of Sezanne, and she comes over here to visit them.
The twinning scheme was originally born out of a personal friendship between Holbeach woman Mrs Lane and another Mme Desroches, of Mondemont, believed to be related to Les and Janet’s friend.
Les added: “We have loved being part of the twinning group. They are a lovely group of people and we have been to no end of places over there.
“You have the vineyards so it is not as flat as here, it is more like the Wolds. You get the maximum of the sun.
“People say that France is a lovely place, the only thing negative is the French - but the French people are really lovely.”
It is thought that the twinning idea was originally set up by the government after wartime to try to rebuild relationships.
Roy added: “We have a strong relationship with the French.”
○ On Saturday April 7 the Friends of Sezanne Jumelage are holding a Sausage and Mash Supper and Picture Quiz in the Fraser Rooms at Surfleet at 6.30pm.
It is the first of their 2018 fundraising social events and the cost is £10 per person.
Anybody interested in finding out more about the group is welcome to attend.
To book, contact Roy on: 07810 188600 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org